Hypoglycemia in Non-Diabetics
Hypoglycemia is a condition characterized by an abnormally low blood sugar level. Blood sugar (glucose) is what your cells consume for energy production. Hypoglycemia is usually associated with diabetes. But there are other conditions, most of them rare, capable of causing low blood sugar in people without diabetes. Hypoglycemia is one of these. It’s not a disease, but a condition with symptoms such as fever or a high white blood cell count, and is a pretty good indication of a health problem.
For people who do not have diabetes or other underlying symptoms, causes of hypoglycemia include the following:
- Certain medications
- Certain cancers
- Critical diseases (kidney, liver, or heart failure)
- Hormonal deficiencies
- Disorders causing the pancreas secreting too much insulin.
Another big user of glucose is your brain. It needs a steady supply of glucose since it doesn't store or manufacture its own supply. Because of this relationship, hypoglycemia can have these effects on the brain:
- Confusion, or abnormal behavior, the inability to perform simple tasks
- Visual disturbances, such as double or blurred vision
- Seizures, (uncommon)
- Loss of consciousness, (uncommon)
Hypoglycemia may also cause these other symptoms:
- Heart palpitations
There may be other causes of these symptoms but the only way to be sure is to have your blood sugar measured by your health care provider.
The main cause of hypoglycemia is the overproduction of insulin. If your pancreas releases too much insulin into your bloodstream it creates a condition called hyperinsulinemia. Again, this isn't a disease, but an indication of a health problem.
In someone without diabetes the normal fasting blood sugar is between 70-100 (mg/dl). A low fasting blood sugar in someone without diabetes is below 50 (mg/dl). Keeping track of these numbers can warn if numbers are falling outside these normal ranges.
Other possible causes of hypoglycemia for the non-diabetic include:
- Mistaken Use: Taking someone else's diabetes medicine accidently
- Some medications: such as quinine
- Alcohol: Usually when someone is drinking heavily and has not eaten.
- Some illnesses: Especially of the liver or kidney or long term starvation (eating disorder)
- Excessive production of insulin: Usually caused by a tumor of the beta cells of the pancreas.
- Endocrine deficiencies: Usually from diseases like Addison's or hypopituitarism
- Other tumors: The tumor itself might take up an excessive amount of insulin and cause an overproduction of insulin-like substances.
Short-term treatment of hypoglycemia usually is as simple as eating some carbohydrates like fruit juice, hard candy, even sugared soda. Then measure the glucose level. If still not high enough take some more. Follow up with your health care provider to determine long-term strategies for managing and controlling your blood sugar levels to insure you keep your body and health in good shape!